FKT: Matthew Griffith - Hillsboro & Sawyers Peaks (NM) - 2022-03-26

Route variation
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Total time
3h 32m 53s
GPS track(s)

I travelled out to the Black Range this weekend to check out Hillsboro and Sawyers Peaks and attempt to run an FKT on the route. Overall, the run went well and I'm pretty happy with my time, though there was snow completely covering about the last 3/4 mile trail up Hillsboro (on the northern slopes). I figure that ~1.5 miles of snow travel--requiring me to kick in steps on the sidehill--cost me 4-5 minutes, which would have easily put me under 3:30. Besides the snow near the top and some muddy parts along the way, the trail up Hillsboro was in relatively good shape, if a bit overgrown in places, and only a few downed trees.

The trail up Sawyers Peak was not in nearly as good of condition with many downed trees and a few places where it would be very easy to lose the trail if you're not paying close attention. That side of the pass clearly got it worse from the Silver Fire and the trail looks to be far less travelled. Also, I didn't really realize the last 1/2 mile up Sawyers was off-trail so that last little ways up the peak is pretty slow to navigate. If you go up there, watch out for all the old, rusty wire all over the ground--both barbed and non-barbed--trying to trip you up. 

I will say that there is still a lot of time to be gained on the route as I wasn't properly tapering and I ran the downhills conservatively because I'm still nursing a weak ankle from a recent sprain that I didn't want to reinjure and I'm dealing with some SI joint pain that is particularly bad when descending. Also, although I dealt with the elevation okay (average elevation was ~9000 ft), I was definitely affected by the heat up and down Sawyers. Despite the early season and lingering snow on Hillsboro, this weekend was the first real heat wave of the year and it was already up to 83 F at Emory Pass when I came through the halfway point around noon (I forgot to look at the thermometer when I finished, but it felt pretty hot). I haven't run in temps that warm since last summer so I was definitely not acclimated to the heat. Also, this route was much more sun-exposed than I expected. Even the areas that didn't appear burnt were pretty thin forest. I probably only had ~20 minutes of shade on the run, and the sun bearing down at that altitude can get to you.

A few other things to note. First, it appears that the previous FKTs have all had various start, midpoint, and finish locations in Emory Pass. So to ensure the course I ran wasn't short compared to previous records, I used the furthest point of the parking area, which is in front of the "Silver Fire 2013", for my reference location. I was touching the sign when I started, I touched the fire tower on top of Hillsboro Peak, I touched the Silver Fire sign again on my way back through the pass, I touched the large rock pile with summit register on the top of Sawyers Peak, and then stopped my watch when I was touching the Silver Fire 2013 sign again at the end. Future FKT attempts can also use the same reference points along the way. I did pause briefly on both peaks to look for a benchmark, but, honestly, didn't spend too much time, and since I hadn't been to either peak before, just found what appeared to be the most obvious reference/high point to touch and turn around. Second, I think self-supported efforts make the most sense for this route, since you have to run back through Emory Pass near the halfway point anyway. You certainly could go unsupported, but why carry extra water and calories up and down Hillsboro if you're going to run back past your parked car anyway? For future attempts, despite the style you choose, I think you should still run back up the driveway to the lookout parking area and touch the sign since every previous FKT holder has gone back to the parking area. This does add several minutes when compared to just running straight through the pass and on up Sawyers without going back up the drive to the lookout parking area.

Here were my splits per my Garmin Fenix 7s:
Hillsboro Peak, 5.32 miles, 1:07
Emory Pass, 10.62 miles, 1:54
Sawyers Peak, 14.64 miles, 2:52
Emory Pass, 18.67 miles, 3:32:53

Total distance: 18.67 miles; Total elevation gain: ~3600 ft

For nutrition and hydration, I ran with 2x 18 oz bottles of tailwind up Hillsboro, then exchanged those back at the car for another 2x 18 oz bottles of tailwind for Sawyers. I also had a gel while I was at the car. This turned out to be just right for me for the temps and duration of the day. Totals: 72 fl oz, 910 kcal.